Grow Home is an interesting little experiment if you will. Developed by eight people from Ubisoft Reflections, who are known for their Driver franchise along with their work on other Ubisoft titles such as Watch Dogs and Far Cry 3. Grow Home is a title that was literally introduced two weeks before its release and not much marketing muscle has been put behind it. Still, Ubisoft seemed to like what they saw and have put the small title out on PC for $7.99. Despite its low price, Grow Home is more than worth the cost of admission. However there is not a ton to do outside of the main objective and little to keep you coming back after completing it.
Searching for a plant to help save the home planet (presumably Earth) your spaceship stops on a planet to send out a Botanical Utility Droid (BUD). Landing on the planet's surface, its BUD'S job to retrieve a Star Plant seed to bring to the home planet. The story is definitely not a focal point, nor does it need be. The objective is simple and laid out at the beginning; grow the Star Plant, retrieve a seed, and bring it to the ship. Keeping the story and objective clear allows the player to focus on the new world they are set to explore.
Grow Home has a nice graphical style to it, although you should have no problem running it at full settings. Not pushing the PC by any means in terms of power it looks and runs smoothly.
As you take control of BUD one thing is very apparent, his movement is not as smooth as a normal human character. This is done by design, as BUD himself appears as a very limbless robot that is not capable of the precision movement of a human. Momentum can be your own worst enemy though, as not paying attention to where BUD is moving can send you over the edge...literally. Whether it be falling onto a leaf, a rock, or a new surface, paying attention to how fast BUD is moving is vital. Not having the precise movement of human legs, it will take a few moments to gain control of BUD. That's not to say moving the character is a hassle, it is just one you cannot take for granted and must pay attention to.
While walking will get you around on flat surfaces, a lot of climbing will await BUD in his adventure. BUD has two arms, each assigned to a shoulder trigger/button (a keyboard can be used to play but the game STRONGLY encourages you to play with a controller). Left hand=left trigger/button and right hand=right trigger/button. Climbing simply involves grabbing a surface by using the buttons. Once attatched, you will need to alternate between each of BUD's hands to climb around the environment. A silhouette shows where your right/left hand is looking to go, creating an indicator of where BUD will grab next. If you grab a hold and hang on, the robot hand becomes a circle to let you know you are attached in the highlighted area. The system works well enough by only using the left stick and two buttons. Not complicated, climbing feels rewarding as you actually guide where BUD is going, rather than just pressing a button like an Assassin's Creed game. While the system itself is simple, executing the climbing takes a little time to get used to. Quick back-and-forth presses of the button are needed to climb at a decent pace. The key is to keep BUD in a position so that his limbs move more naturally. There were a couple times I needed a minute to adjust my position so that I could climb more fluidly. Climbing is a key part to the game and thankfully it is fun and rewarding. Just don't expect to be auto-corrected into the right position every time you move.
While on your journey, energy crystals are scattered about for BUD to collect. By collecting these crystals, BUD unlocks the ability to jump, zoom the camera out, and gain access to a jetpack. The first crystal, which is very close to where you start, unlocks the ability to jump. Although having to collect 10 crystals just to zoom out the camera seems a little odd, shouldn't that be available from the beginning? Maybe there were not enough ideas for other abilities for BUD. I'm not downplaying its usefulness as it is VERY useful later in the game, it just seems silly as the first real upgrade. The third upgrade you get (insert number here) unlocks the jetpack making traversal a little bit easier. While at first the boost is very limited, later upgrades increase the duration of the jetpack. Not only is the jetpack useful for going up vertically quickly, it is a great tool to slow yourself down when falling very fast and coming in hot.
Getting back to the crystals themselves, they are quite literally spread all over the place. Sitting in plane sight, set on a hill, tucked underneath a floating island, and even on spinning asteroids, there is a wide range in challenge to collecting crystals. While searching for crystals underneath the floating islands, you can really get a sense of scale of where you are to your surroundings. Be sure to hang on, as it can be a LONG, long way down. Fortunately there are teleporters scattered throughout the game, which come in hand if you need to get to a certain level quickly or go back up after falling all the way to the surface.
Growing the Star Plant is your main (well only) objective. Growing the plant involves taking a bud, and sprouting it from the core of the plant. Doing so sends you on a somewhat wild ride, as the sprout bursts out at a fast speed with an unpredictable direction. It us up to you to steer the sprout in the correct direction towards floating platforms with a glow underneath. The game doesn't really explain what these rocks are, but getting a sprout into these rocks causes the main plant to grow. This is by far one of the most fun parts of the game, the camera centers behind BUD and the pace of the growing sprout has a roller coaster feel to it. You have control of these fast growing sprouts as there is no set way they can go. Using the sprouts just for pathways is also a great way to make paths to clouds without having to climb up and free fall all the time. Don't worry if your sprout doesn't make it to your destination, as more sprouts grow on the one that you just rode.
A few items are available to BUD, including a dandelion flower and a leaf. The flower serves as an umbrella of sorts, slowing your fall while allowing you to cover a little bit of distance. As you continue falling while hanging onto the flower, pedals will one by one fall off. When all the pedals are gone, you better hope you have found a landing spot. Flowers are found within a minute or two upon starting, while leaves don't appear until about halfway through your journey. As you might have guessed they can be used kind of like a hanglider, allowing you to travel great distances in the air. Traversal becomes a bit easier with these items, and a bit of fun too. Floating in the air while hanging onto a dandelion and viewing the world below is quite a sight. Each of these items can be stored into your backpack by pressing Y to save for later.
The world you explore is littered with flowers, small trees, and fruit. These make for great eye candy but most are not useful for anything. Mushrooms allow you to get a bounce, and some trees can break your fall. This is where the game feels a little shallow. At the beginning, your ship computer (named M.O.M.) tells you to explore the world and discover. Besides from a few cool moments, nothing you discover has a greater purpose. I discovered a small sheep stuck behind a bunch of rocks near the beginning. Hoping to get something for freeing him, I was surprised when nothing happened. I was expecting a nice little "Awww" moment but was left with nothing but an imaginary achievement I created. Fruit and nuts can be found but they do nothing useful but for an achievement. A few caves are hidden throughout the world, containing cool scenery and crystals to find. While there are only a few in the game, discovering them is exciting even if they are not very large in scale. The world is filled out nicely with different plant-life, wildlife, and other objects, it is just a shame that there is not more to interact with.
Once you grow the Star Plant all the way to your ship, bringing a seed from the newly grown plant to the ship's transporter completes the main story. Once finished, you are then provided with a second objective to complete, if you choose to do so. A recent update has provided a new side objective for B.U.D to complete, which involves scanning various plants, fruits and animals at the teleporters mentioned before. It feels a little tacked on but scanning the appropriate items gives a nice boost to growing the sprouts. Even after the second objective and the scanning update, there was not a whole lot pulling me back to Grow Home. While you can grow all the sprouts differently, the world is the exact same layout.
Despite some of its minimal objectives and lack of replay value, I enjoyed my time with Grow Home. Climbing is a little tricky at first but becomes fun and engaging once you get the feel for it. The world you discover does not have much to offer in terms of other things to do, but it sure is nice to look at. The graphics are good and feel appropriate for this style of game. Growing sprouts is literally a fun ride and searching for all the crystals is challenging and rewarding. Grow Home is only available on PC at the moment, and from the sound of it, it might find its way to consoles. I hope it does, as Grow Home is a great passion project, which really shows the more you explore. A short but fun ride, Grow Home is accessible for everyone and deserves a shot for it to grow in your heart.
- + Graphics and style are appropriate
- + A nice balance of risk and reward
- + Climbing is fun......
- - But it can be a little tough at first
- - Lacking replay value
- - World is neat but not much to do
Hours played: 8
Platform played on: PC